Church history always fascinates me. This page I found gives a great introduction to the Brethren?:
“The Open Brethren began in the 19th century with a group of British Evangelical Christians who wanted to return to the purity of the New Testament Church. Their desire was to base church practice on the Bible, rather than on the traditions of a particular denomination. Key early Brethren leaders included J N Darby, A. N. Groves, and George Muller. Some of the distinctives of the Brethren are:
-The autonomy of the local congregation
-Leadership by a body of lay elders; opposition to the idea of a paid professional ministry
-The Lord’s Supper – a Communion service which is open for any (male) member in good standing to teach, give a
-Bible reading, pray, announce a hymn etc.
-The baptism of believers (i.e. not infants), by immersion
-Usually (but not always) a very conservative interpretation of the Bible’s teaching about the role of women; in particular, no place for women in leadership or public teaching. “
Interesting that many of these things have been taken up by the so called ‘New Churches’ and I for one am proud that my grandfather was a Brethren Preacher. They had much to offer the church at the time. Like many such movements, they recovered certain things for the church, most of which are now seen as mainstream in many settings.